The water tank plays a vital role in modern society. It stores clean water for drinking, for use in industry, agriculture and, increasingly, to supply fire sprinkler systems in emergencies. But the history of storing water for later use stretches back to ancient civilisations. Fascinating stories have emerged over the centuries, often detailing the ingenious ways the ancients used natural resources to create huge structures.
While regulations now determine how and in what water should be stored, some of the solutions crafted as far back as 3000BC existed for many hundreds of years. Some manmade tanks constructed in the 1800s exist to this day. While clearly unsuitable for potable water, they have been preserved for posterity. Back in the Bronze Age, in Asia, the Indus Valley Civilisation was doing a lot of what the Romans would go onto perfect and become famous for. The water tank was just one of the many achievements of this society. It carefully constructed urban areas to include efficient drainage as well as water supply networks. People lived in crudely constructed brick houses, often in quite densely populated settlements. The water tank became pivotal because of lack of supply.
While early tanks were constructed from stone or wood, some made good use of watertight structures found in nature. Unfortunately for Indus Valley occupants, water storage could not save them from a lack of this precious resource. They were eventually forced to new lands in search of water and less arid soil.
A lifesaver in the medieval fortress
Medieval castles were fortresses built to be defended. They needed water in good supply, not just for defensive moats but to sustain inhabitants during long sieges. While water was often obtained from wells, it was circulated around the castle from a water tank through pipes. Often the tanks were constructed of wood. They would supply water not just for human consumption but for bathing too.
The Romans invented the castle – as forts. The earliest castle in England dates back to just past 1066, which should give you a clue as to who by. Yes, William The Conqueror had it constructed as a defence mechanism. The White Tower, part of the Tower of London, was completed in 1097 having taken almost two decades to build.
The cost of constructing and maintaining castles, along with the drawbacks of living in one once gun powder was discovered, led their decline.
The water tank and agriculture
Farmers rely on the water tank to supply livestock feeders and perform important functions. Water is needed for drinking troughs, spraying and irrigation. Relying on wells, troughs and time-consuming distribution methods are, thankfully, a thing of the past. Today, British farmers benefit from a wide range of storage options, many designed for specific applications – even to feed troughs.
Water storage is especially important in agriculture when low rainfall or droughts can serious impact crops. Globally, farmers are doing their bit to reduce water use. This has seen them become among the first to use modern rainwater harvesting systems and other innovative means to collect and store water. Water storage facilities used in farming are manufactured from a range of materials, including galvanised steel, MDPE and more. Without these solutions, agriculture would be even harder than it already is. Modern water storage solutions have given farmers the ability to deliver water anywhere – no matter what the location or terrain.
Healthcare and water supplies
In the NHS water supply systems need to meet strict criteria. That means the design and installation of all components, including a water tank, must meet guides. They need to pass commissioning and testing metrics before being used. Water is stored in hospitals, for example, to offer protection from back-flow in addition to guaranteeing reserves in the event of disruption to supplies of cold water. Tanks are also used to reduce pressure on the system as well as to lower maximum demands on mains supplies.
Increasingly, sprinkler tanks are also installed in hospitals. For both solutions, hospitals are encouraged to maintain tank valves as well as the tank themselves. Further information about water facilities used in healthcare can be found here.
The water tank for fire sprinkler systems
Now onto our forte – the water tank for fire sprinkler systems. These can be constructed from a variety of materials. The concrete tank is still used in many buildings. However, it can be more prone to leaks. That is why most tanks installed today are constructed from either glass coated steel, galvanised steel or, alternatively, epoxy coated steel.
The role of the tank, often referred to as a sprinkler tank, is to reserve water to fight a fire. The amount needed to be stored is dictated by the size, location and use of the site. This type of tank is essential if a sprinkler system is to effectively contain a fire from the earliest opportunity. Having enough water on standby to douse the seat of a blaze can stop it from impacting a larger area of a building – and save lives.
Locations most commonly found with a sprinkler tank include industrial warehouses, manufacturing plants, distribution centres and municipal buildings. In recently years, tanks have been installed to serve retrofitted sprinklers in tower blocks and in new school buildings, along with other types of buildings. Future Building Regulations could dictate which buildings must have sprinklers. However, the basis of any changes is unlikely to be known until the report into the second phase of the Grenfell Inquiry is published. You can read the recommendations to come out of the first phase of the inquiry here.
Whether you lived in ancient times, in a medieval castle or exist today, the humble water tank has played a pivotal role in sustaining life. As well as delivering drinking water, it has helped to preserve countless lives and protected material assets from the ravages of fire.
It may date back to almost the beginning of time, but the water tank continues to serve a pivotal role in all our lives. While few give water storage a second thought, it is the unseen essential that performs the most vital of functions.